vanita gupta

Indian American attorney Vanita Gupta’s role in obtaining acquittals for dozens of African Americans convicted on drug charges in 1999 in Texas, will be highlighted in a new film, “Tulia,” to be directed by Seth Gordon. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Indian American attorney Vanita Gupta shot to fame when, straight out of New York University Law School, she exposed police corruption and discrimination in Tulia, Texas. In 2003, she won the release of 40 African Americans falsely convicted on drug charges. Now, Hollywood filmmaker Seth Gordon has signed on to direct a film that will bring to the big screen the entire saga.

Gordon will direct “Tulia,” a feature film based on the true story and the 2005 book, “Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The group was arrested for selling powder cocaine based solely on the uncorroborated testimony of one white undercover narcotics officer, Tom Coleman, according to National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The first defendants to be tried received lengthy sentences ranging from 20 years to several hundred years, which caused all remaining defendants to plead guilty in exchange for leniency despite the lack of reliable evidence against them.

Coleman was named a Texas Lawman of the Year for his work.

Gupta was then working for the Legal Defense and Education Fund of the NAACP.

The story, according to the report, centering on the larger issues of racial injustice, poverty, desperation and the American war against drugs, will also follow Gupta and the NAACP team who fought a valiant battle against seemingly insurmountable odds to obtain acquittals in 2004 for the majority of the victims.

Mubina Rattonsey’s Los Angeles-based production shingle, Zero Gravity Motion Pictures, acquired the film rights from author Nate Blakeslee, and also optioned the life rights to the story and the event’s central figure, Gupta.

“Mubina has found an extraordinary true story that is very relevant in today's political climate,” Gordon was quoted as saying by The Hollywood Reporter. “I’m excited to bring this important and poignant story to a wider audience, to call attention to what happened in Tulia, and to showcase the incredible and heroic work Vanita Gupta did for its citizens.”

Gupta, who was appointed by President Barack Obama as assistant attorney general of the civil rights division, spearheaded the Obama administration’s campaigns against police brutality and mistreatment of minorities. Before joining the Obama administration, she was deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union.

She is now the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

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